Category Archives: Support

Guest Post: How to Motivate High Performance Employees?

Below is an article published by Dr Fida Chishti. When I read it I thought that this is something heads, SLT and governors could benefit from too. Not only are the tips useful, it can also be a useful question to ask at interviews of prospective candidates. The article is reproduced below with Dr Chishti’s permission. The original article can be accessed via this link.

How to motivate high performance employees?

Just the other day I was interviewing for a hybrid CTO / COO role and one of the questions posed to me was…How would you motivate high performance employees in your team?

I thought to myself, what an excellent question, as it addressed the other end of the spectrum of what you commonly might get asked instead…i.e., how do you deal with underachievers? And at the same time also focused on, arguably more importantly, those within your team who are often responsible for helping you deliver success.

As I quickly formulated my response I thought of the many high performance employees I’ve had the good fortune to hire and lead and what it was that really lit up their eyes when engaging them to work to their full potential. At the same time I also thought of what would motivate me (as the question might have been meant to explore this too ;-)).

Here’s my response paraphrased below….

You must inspire them, through sharing your vision, i.e., the big picture and where they fit in to it and how they perform a key role within it. They need to feel part of that vision, part of the team and that they are responsible for making it happen.

High performers need to be empowered, you need to expect high standards from them and set them stretch goals. You’ll also need to engage with them more and regularly complement good work and reward achievements when key milestones are achieved. It’s important to provide recognition especially amongst their peers,
this does not need to be monetary in nature as often non-monetary recognition (e.g., an expenses paid meal for two, tickets to the theatre) is all it takes to show that they are valued and their work is appreciated.

Though I didn’t have time to go into it at the time I also thought of a couple of frameworks I’d learnt about on my executive MBA, namely Kotter’s 8 Change Accelerators [1], [2] and Lencioni’s ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ [3] – though not exclusively targeting inspiration and motivation of high performers – they are excellent frameworks around which to develop high performing teams and deliver any transformation project.

In summary

In order to motivate high performers:

  1. Inspire them
  2. Share your vision, the big picture, and where they fit into it
  3. Let them know they are integral to its success; they perform a key role; they are part of the team
  4. Empower them
  5. Set stretch goals and high standards
  6. Reward achievements and complement good work.
  7. Publicly recognise their efforts and show that you value and appreciate their work

Please feel free to comment or add your own thoughts on what else you’ve found to work.

Further reading

[1] Kotter J. P. (2012). Accelerate! Boston, Harvard Business Review, HBR.org.

[2] Kotter J. P. (2006). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, Boston, Harvard Business Review, HBR.org.

[3] Lencioni P. (2002). ‘The five dysfunctions of a team: a leadership fable’. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

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New governor induction matters


Governance is a huge responsibility. Yes, it is a voluntary role but that does not mean that it should not be done well. New governors need support to understand the role and their responsibilities. One way you can do this is by having a good induction programme in place. I’ve decided to jot down my thoughts on what this programme could look like.

  • Arrange for a tour of the school and show them where the meetings are held. (If you hold meetings in the evenings, do make sure new governors know how to gain access to the building)
  • Arrange for the new governor to meet the Chair of Governors (if they haven’t met before), the Head and the Clerk
  • Introduce them to all the governors at the next meeting
  • If your governing body has bought into a training package, make sure the new governor knows how to access it
  • Make sure they know if any induction training is available. If you have not bought into a training package, then do let the new governor know how to access the free online induction module put together by SGOSS, The Key, and Lloyds Bank
  • Assign an experienced governor to act as a mentor who can go through all the documents in the Induction Pack

Induction Pack

Below are some of the documents I think should be included in the Induction Pack.

  • Glossary of educational terms, acronyms, educational jargon (including school specific ones)
  • Articles of Association and Funding Agreement for academy governors (these should be on your website so you can provide a link rather than paper copies)
  • List of governors (include a photograph, role each governor has been assigned, contact details). In case of MATs, if the new governor is member of the LGB then the governor should know how to get in touch with the Trust Board
  • List of the members of the Senior Leadership Team (include details of the SBM, SENDCo, Safeguarding Lead)
  • Contact details of the clerk
  • Details of committees
  • Minutes of last year’s meetings
  • Any Standing orders or Terms of Reference the governing body has agreed
  • Dates of meetings
  • Nolan Principles
  • Code of Conduct (the mentor should go through this and the new governor should fill this and return to the clerk)
  • Business Interest form (to be filled and returned to the clerk)
  • Skills audit (to be filled and returned)
  • Details of any memberships that the governing body holds (such as NGA, The Key, Local governor association)
  • Document detailing expectations (see below)
  • School Development Plan
  • Self Evaluation Plan
  • List of useful websites (including @UKGovChat and School Governors UK Facebook page)
  • If the Governing Body is a member of the NGA then include their publication, Welcome to Governance
  • Governor expenses policy and claim form (if the governing body has agreed one)
  • If the school is part of a MAT a list of schools in the MAT
  • If there is an agreed schedule of governor visits then that should be included as well as the visit protocol and details of how the visit is reported
  • Contact details of the school
  • School calendar

Expectations

  • What new governors can expect from the governing body:
    • A mentor who will be able to offer support and answer questions
    • Meeting papers will be sent out at least one week in advance of the meeting
    • Training will be signposted
    • We will assign you a role/committee to make best use of the skills you bring to the governing body
    • Support from the Chair and Clerk
  • What the governing body expects from you:
    • Attend meetings and be on time
    • If for any reason you cannot attend a meeting then send apologies to the clerk as soon as possible
    • Read all the papers which have been sent to you in advance of the meeting
    • Do ask questions/clarifications. There are no naive questions which shouldn’t be asked. You will bring a new perspective and the other governors will appreciate and welcome it
    • Be responsible for your CPD
    • Try and keep up to date with developments in the field of education and especially governance

Is there anything you would add to the above (or omit?)

Principles and personal attributes which individuals bring to the board matter

Governance is coming under increasing scrutiny and rightly so. Every school deserves to have a good governing body and a governing body can only be as effective as the people serving on it. Below are some of the attributes that people serving on trust boards and local governing bodies (LGBs) should have.

Seven principles of public life; Nolan Principles

It is essential that school leaders (be they trustees, heads, SLT, people serving on LGBs) live by the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life.

  • Selflessness

    People serving on public bodies should act only in the interest of the public. In the case of people involved in governance they should ensure that they serve the interest of the school, students and the school community.

  • Integrity

    They must not place themselves under obligation to anyone who may influence them. They must act in the interest of the school and not take decisions in order to gain personal benefit.

  • Objectivity

    They must act fairly, without bias, not discriminate, and must base decisions on evidence.

  • Accountable

    They must understand that they are accountable for the decisions they take. Trustees and people serving on LGBs in MATs should understand that the trust board is the accountable body.

  • Openness

    They should act in an open and transparent manner. They should not withhold information from the public unless there are sound and lawful reasons to do so.

  • Honesty

    Honesty and truthfulness are essential characteristics for anyone involved in governance.

  • Leadership

    They should lead by example and challenge poor behaviour.

Seven “C”s from the Competency Framework for Governance

The recently published Competency Framework for Governance lists the following attributes which those involved in governance should have.

  • Committed

    They should be committed to doing the best that they can. They need to be committed to their development. The need to commit time and energy to the role. This will involve attending meetings well prepared and carrying out that they’ve been asked to do.

  • Confident

    They need to be confident enough to act independently, have courageous conversations and take part in discussions by expressing their opinions.

  • Curious

    They should be able to ask questions and be analytical.

  • Challenging

    They should not accept data at face value. They should be able to ask challenging questions in order to bring about school improvement.

  • Collaborative

    They should be able to work in a collaborative manner with the rest of the members of the governance team, head, senior teachers, parents, students and community.

  • Critical

    They should understand their role of a critical friend. They should be endeavour to improve their own performance as well as the performance of the whole team

  • Creative

    They should be able to be creative while solving problems, try new approaches and be innovative thinkers.

Other attributes

  • Provide challenge and support

    They should understand what is meant by support as well as challenge and be prepared to provide both. Many people find the challenge bit of the job hard, but that is the most important bit! Many people think that the word challenge means you have to be confrontational. That is not the case. Challenge just means asking the right questions to get all the information you need to perform your job.

  • Pull their own weight

    Governance is a huge and complex undertaking. Every member of the board should do his/her fair share of the work. The right governor will volunteer to do some of the tasks that have to be done. This may be monitoring visits, learning walks, attending school events and taking up a specific role (such as the SEN Governor).

  • Understand difference between strategic and operational

    They should understand the difference between being strategic and operational. The right governor is one who can be described as “eyes on, hands off” or “strategically engaged, operationally disengaged”.

  • Team player
    The governing body is a corporate body and each and every member needs to understand this. Governors should understand that

    (a) They cannot do anything they have not be delegated to do
    (b) Once a decision has been made, then that is the corporate decision and governors need to abide by it. They are allowed to express their opinion (and should!) during the discussion stage. Once a decision is reached, even if that wasn’t their preferred option, they have to abide by it and carry it through.

  • Not afraid to speak up

    They should be able to speak their mind. They should be able to bring up a difficult topic during a meeting and only during a meeting! This goes hand in hand with the point (b) I made above. If they feel strongly about something they should be able to speak up at the meeting. If the other members don’t agree then they should accept it and not carry on the conversation outside the boardroom.

  • Manage conflicts of interest

    They should be able to recognise and manage conflict of interests. There will be times when there will be conflicts of interests. The right governor is one who can recognise when these situations arise and knows what to do when this happens.

  • Understand duties

    They should understand and fulfil their statutory duties. They should understand their responsibilities under equality legislation. Academy Trustees should understand that they have duties under the Company Law and Charity Law.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure you can add more to the list so please do because for good governance getting the right people around the table matters. It is also important to remember that it’s not necessary that everyone will have these skills when they join. As long as you are willing to learn and develop these skills, you will be an effective governor.

I’ve made a Powerpoint presentation based on the above.

Supporting your governing body’s clerk matters

A good clerk is pivotal in ensuring that the governing body is as effective as it can be. It is true that good schools will have good governing bodies. It is, I think, equally true that good governing bodies have good clerks. For the purpose of this blog, I will assume that your governing body has an independent and professional clerk. What follows are some ideas on how you can support your clerk in order to help the clerk support you.

  • Write a good job description so that everyone is clear about the roles and responsibilities of your clerk. A clear job description also supports the clerk’s effectiveness.
  • Your clerk will be responsible for writing the agendas (in consultation with he Chair and Head) and circulating the agenda and papers. The Chair should make sure they make time to discuss the agenda with the clerk well before the meeting.
  • If you are responsible for a preparing a paper for the next meeting, do send it to the clerk in time for the clerk to include it in the meeting pack.
  • If you had some actions from the last meeting let the clerk know where you are with them. It will make the clerk’s job less stressful if they don’t have to chase you for papers or updates on actions.
  • As the Chair do ensure that when the clerk sends you the draft minutes you turn them around as quickly as possible. Consider using track changes which will help your clerk.
  • Support your clerk by ensuring they have access to good CPD.
  • Chairs should do a low stakes annual appraisal of clerks. This should be an opportunity for both to discuss how they think the governors and clerk worked together, what went well and what could be improved and how.
  • Ensure that your clerk feels like a valued member of the team. Ask for and listen to their advice when you are unsure.
  • Being introduced to and meeting the clerk should be part of your induction process for new governors.
  • There should also be an induction for a new clerk. They should be shown around the school, especially the room where you normally meet, introduced to the Head/SLT and any other member of the school staff they may need to contact and introduced to all the governors.
  • It may be helpful to agree a routine for regular communication between the Chair and the clerk which may contribute to effective use of both the chair’s and the clerk’s time.
  • It may be helpful to have a school email address for your clerk. This can be communicated to everyone via your website. This has various advantages
    • It will help parents and others know how to get in touch
    • It’s preferable than having the clerk’s personal email address in the public domain
    • If your clerk works for other governing bodies then this will help them in organising paperwork for the different governing bodies
  • Can your school provide a pigeon hole for your clerk? There may be instances where people will write to the clerk/GB/Chair. This correspondence should go to a dedicated pigeonhole which the clerk can access easily.
  • Encourage your clerk to keep up with the latest legislation/developments. If your governing body is a member of NGA (and I highly recommend that they are) then see that your clerk knows this and has signed up for the weekly newsletter.
  • Any governor can ask for an item to be put on the agenda. It would be helpful if the Chair would remind governors how to do this and how much notice is required. Clerks shouldn’t have to deal with last minute requests. (If there is a really urgent matter that can be dealt with under AOB and the governors should have an agreed process for this).
  • Make sure the clerk’s pay reflects what they do.
  • Lastly, and very importantly, in all your dealings with your clerk do consider their life/work balance. The chair should not hesitate to intercede if they feel that unfair demands are being made of the clerk.

Is there anything you would add to the above list?

Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by all

 The Competency Framework was published last week alongside the revised Governance handbook.  DfE have identified six features of effective governance in the handbook. The framework lists 16 competencies for these six features. It has tried to “define more clearly the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for governance to play its full part in this [enough good school places for every child] vision.” The framework has been organised so that it first details the knowledge and skills needed by everyone and then explains what’s needed by chairs and finally the skills and knowledge which at least someone on the board must have. The framework lists some of the ways boards can make use of it (how to carry out a skills audit (NGA are revising their skills audit in light of this framework), define training needs, self evaluation etc). Sir David Carter pointed out on Twitter that the framework should not be used a checklist but as a tool. Also remember that, depending upon your context, parts of this may not apply to you.

There have been some comments that the framework is over burdensome. I had a read and decided to split it into three sections; applicable to all, applicable to chairs and finally competencies which at least someone should have. When you split it this way and then read it, I don’t think anyone can argue that this is what we should be aiming for. In fact I would argue that all “good” boards are already doing this and it would help others on their  journey to becoming the type of board each and every school deserves. Again, this is not a checklist. Use it to inform your training needs, for example, or to drive your recruitment.

This blog lists the knowledge and skills which everyone should have or develop with training. The next blog will deal with knowledge and skills needed by chairs and the third those needed by at least one  person on the board.

KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS NEEDED BY EVERYONE.

1. Strategic Leadership

  • Setting direction
    • Has knowledge of key themes of national education policy and the local education context
    • Knows about key features of effective governance
    • Knows about the strategic priorities (and where appropriate, charitable objects) for their organisation
    • Has tools and techniques for strategic planning
    • Knows about principles of effective change management
    • Knows about the difference between strategic and operational decisions
    • Thinks strategically and contributes to the development of the organisation’s strategy
    • Can articulate the organisation’s strategic priorities (and where appropriate, charitable objects) and explain how these inform goals
    • Can put in place plans for monitoring progress towards strategic goals
    • Supports strategic change having challenged as appropriate so that change is in the best interests of children, young people and the organisation (and aligned with charitable objects, where appropriate)
    • Is able to champion the reasons for, and benefits of, change to all
  • Culture, values and ethos
    • Knows about the values of the organisation and how these are reflected in strategy and improvement plans
    • Knows about the ethos of the organisation and, where appropriate, that of the foundation trust including in relation to any religious character
    • Knows about the code of conduct for the board and how this embodies the culture, values and ethos of the organisation
    • Can set and agree the distinctive characteristics and culture of the organisation or, in schools with a religious designation, preserve and develop the distinctive character set out in the organisation’s trust deed
    • Acts in a way that exemplifies and reinforces the organisation’s culture, values and ethos
    • Ensures that policy and practice align with the organisation’s culture, values and ethos
  • Decision-making
    • Identifies viable options and those most likely to achieve the organisation’s goals and objectives
    • Puts aside vested or personal interests to make decisions that are in the best interests of all pupils/students
    • Acts with honesty, frankness and objectivity taking decisions impartially, fairly and on merit using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias
    • Brings integrity, and considers a range of perspectives and diverse ways of thinking to challenge the status quo, reject assumptions and take nothing for granted
    • Identifies when to seek the advice of an independent clerk/governance professional for guidance on statutory and legal responsibilities and ethical aspects of the board’s decision-making
    • Abides by the principle of collective-decision making and stands by the decisions of the board, even where their own view differ
    • Encourages transparency in decision making and is willingly answerable to, and open to challenge from, those with an interest in decisions made
  • Collaborative working with stakeholders and partners
    • Knows about key stakeholders and their relationship with the organisation
    • Knows about principles of effective stakeholder management
    • Knows about ools and techniques for stakeholder engagement, particularly with regard to engaging parents and carers
    • Is proactive in consulting, and responding to, the views of a wide group of stakeholders when planning and making decisions
    • Anticipates, prepare for and welcome stakeholder questions and ensures that these are answered in a relevant, appropriate and timely manne
    • Works in partnership with outside bodies where this will contribute to achieving the goals of the organisation
    • Uses clear language and messaging to communicate to parents and carers, pupils/students, staff and the local community
    • Is credible, open, honest and appropriate when communicating with stakeholders and partners including clear and timely feedback on how their views have been taken into account
    • Considers the impact of the board’s decisions and the effect they will have on the key stakeholder groups and especially parents and carers and the local community
    • Acts as an ambassador for the organisation
    • Supports and challenges leaders to raise aspiration and community cohesion both within the wider community and with local employers
  • Risk management
    • Knows about the principles of risk management and how these apply to education and the organisation
    • Knows about the process for risk management in the organisation and especially how and when risks are escalated through the organisation for action
    • Knows about the risks or issues that can arise from conflicts of interest or a breach of confidentiality
    • Is able to identify and prioritise the organisational and key risks, their impact and appropriate countermeasures, contingencies and risk owners
    • Ensures risk management and internal control systems are robust enough to enable the organisation to deliver its strategy in the short- and long-term
    • Advises on how risks should be managed or mitigated to reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk and on how to achieve the right balance of risk
    • Ensures the risk management and internal control systems are monitored and reviewed and appropriate actions are taken
    • Actively avoids conflicts of interest or otherwise declares and manages them

2. Accountability for educational standards and financial performance

  • Educational improvement
    • Knows about the importance and impact of high-quality teaching to improving outcomes and the systems, techniques and strategies used to measure teaching quality, pupil progress and attainment
    • Knows about the importance of a broad and balanced of the curriculum
    • Knows about the rationale for the chosen curriculum and how this both promotes the ethos of the organisation and meets the needs of the pupils/students
    • Knows about the relevant national standards for the phase and type of education and how these are used for accountability and benchmarking
    • Knows about the relevant statutory testing and assessment regime
    • Knows about the purposes and principles of assessment outlined in the final report of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels.
    • Knows about the rationale behind the assessment system being used to monitor and measure pupil progress in the organisation
    • Knows about the key principles, drivers and cycle of school improvement
    • Knows about the relevant indicators for monitoring behaviour and safety including information about admissions, exclusions, behaviour incidents, bullying and complaints
    • Knows about the role of behaviour in maintaining a safe environment and promoting learning
    • Establishes clear expectations for executive leaders in relation to the process of educational improvement and intended outcomes
    • Define the range and format of information and data they need in order to hold executive leaders to account
    • Seeks evidence from executive leaders to demonstrate the appropriateness and potential impact of proposed improvement initiatives
    • Questions leaders on how the in-school assessment system in use effectively supports the attainment and progress of all pupils, including those with a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND)
  • Rigorous analysis of data
    • Knows about the DfE performance tables and school comparison tool
    • Knows about RAISEOnline for school and pupil data
    • Knows about the evidence base that data is derived from e.g. pupil attainment and progress data and how it is collected, quality assured and monitored across the organisation
    • Knows about the context of the school and in relation to other schools
    • Knows about information about attendance and exclusions in the school, local area and nationally
    • Knows about the importance of triangulating information about pupil progress and attainment with other evidence including information from, executive leaders (e.g. lesson observations, work scrutiny and learning walks), stakeholders including parents, pupils, staff) and external information (benchmarks, peer reviews, external experts)
    • Analyses and interprets data in order to evaluate performance of groups of pupils/students
    • Analyses and interprets progression and destination data to understand where young people are moving on to after leaving the organisation
    • Uses published data to understand better which areas of school performance need improvement and is able to identify any further data that is required
    • Questions leaders on whether they are collecting the right data to inform their assessment and challenges appropriately when data collection is not adding value.
    • Challenges senior leaders to ensure that the collection of assessment data is purposeful, efficient and valid.
  • Financial frameworks and accountability
    • Knows about the financial policies and procedures of the organisation, including its funding arrangements, funding streams and its mechanisms for ensuring financial accountability
    • Knows about the organisation’s internal control processes and how these are used to monitor spend and ensure propriety to secure value for public money
    • Knows about tthe financial health and efficiency of the organisation and how this compares with similar organisations locally and nationally
    • Has a basic understanding of financial management in order to ensure the integrity of financial information received by the board and to establish robust financial controls
    • Has confidence in the arrangements for the provision of accurate and timely financial information, and the financial systems used to generate such information
    • Interprets budget monitoring information and communicate this clearly to others
    • Participates in the organisation’s self-evaluation of activities relating to financial performance, efficiency and control
    • Is rigorous in their questioning to understand whether enough being done to drive financial efficiency and align budgets to priorities
  • Financial management and monitoring
    • Knows about the organisation’s process for resource allocation and the importance of focussing allocations on impact and outcomes
    • Knows about the importance of setting and agreeing a viable financial strategy and plan which ensure sustainability and solvency
    • Knows about how the organisation receives funding through the pupil premium and other grants e.g. primary sport funding, how these are spent and how spending has an impact on pupil outcomes
    • Knows about the budget setting, audit requirements and timescales for the organisation and checks that they are followed
    • Knows about the principles of budget management and how these are used in the organisation
    • Assimilates the financial implications of organisational priorities and use this knowledge to make decisions about allocating current and future funding
    • Interprets financial data and asks informed questions about income, expenditure and resource allocation and alignment with the strategic plan priorities
  • Staffing and performance management
    • Knows about the organisation’s annual expenditure on staff and resource and any data against which this can be benchmarked against
    • Knows about how staff are recruited to the organisation and how this compares to good recruitment and retention practice
    • Knows about how staff performance management is used throughout the organisation in line with strategic goals and priorities and how this links to the criteria for staff pay progression, objective setting and development planning
    • Knows about the remuneration system for staff across the organisation
    • Ensures that the staffing and leadership structures are fit for purpose
    • Takes full responsibility for maintaining, updating and implementing a robust and considered pay policy
    • Feels confident in approving and applying the system for performance management of executive leaders
    • Identifies and considers the budgetary implication of pay decisions and considers these in the context of the spending plan
    • Pays due regard to ensuring that leaders and teachers are able to have a satisfactory work life balance
  • External accountability
    • Knows about the purpose, nature and processes of formal accountability and scrutiny (e.g. DfE, Ofsted, EFA etc.) and what is required by way of evidence
    • Knows about the national performance measures used to monitor and report performance –including the minimum standards that trigger eligibility for intervention
    • Ensures appropriate structures, processes and professional development are in place to support the demands of internal and external scrutiny
    • Values the ownership that parents and carers and other stakeholders feel about ‘their school’ and ensures that the board makes itself accessible and answerable to them
    • Uses an understanding of relevant data and information to present verbal and written responses to external scrutiny (e.g. inspectors/RSCs/EFA)

3. People

  • Building an effective team
    • Demonstrates commitment to their role and to active participation in governance
    • Ability to acquire the basic knowledge that they need to be effective in their role
    • Uses active listening effectively to build rapport and strong collaborative relationships
    • Welcomes constructive challenge and is respectful when challenging others
    • Provides timely feedback and is positive about receiving feedback in return
    • Seeks to resolve misunderstanding at the earliest stage in order to prevent conflict
    • Raises doubts and encourages the expression of differences of opinion
    • Is honest, reflective and self-critical about mistakes made and lessons learned
    • Influences others and builds consensus using persuasion and clear presentation of their views
    • Demonstrates professional ethics, values and sound judgement
    • Recognises the importance of, and values the advice provided by, the clerk/governance professional role in supporting the board.

4. Structures

  • Roles and responsibilities
    • Knows about the role, responsibilities and accountabilities of the board, and its three core functions
    • Knows about the strategic nature of the board’s role and how this differs from the role of executive leaders and what is expected of each other
    • In academy trusts, knows about the role and powers of Members and how these relate to those of the board
    • Knows about the governance structure of the organisation and particularly how governance functions are organised and delegated, including where decisions are made
    • Knows how the board and any committees (including local governing bodies in a MAT)are constituted
    • Is able to contribute to the design of governance and committee structures that are fit for purpose and appropriate to the scale and complexity of the organisation
    • Is able to adapt existing committee structures as necessary in light of learning/experience including evaluation of impact

5. Compliance

  • Statutory and contractual requirements
    • Knows about the legal, regulatory and financial requirements on the board
    • Knows about the need to have regard to any statutory guidance and government advice including the Governance Handbook
    • Knows about the duties placed upon them under education and employment legislation, and, for academy trusts, the Academies Financial Handbook and their funding agreement(s)
    • Knows about the articles of association or instrument of government and where applicable, the Trust Deeds
    • Knows about the Ofsted inspection/regulatory framework
    • Where applicable, knows about the denominational inspection carried in accordance with s. 48 of the Education Act 2005
    • Knows about the board’s responsibilities in regard to Equalities and Health and Safety legislation
    • Knows about duties relating to safeguarding, including the Prevent Duty; duties related to special education needs and disabilities (SEND); and duties related to information, including in the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000
    • Knows about the school’s whistleblowing policy and procedures and any responsibilities of the board within it
    • Knows about the importance of adhering to organisation policies e.g. on parental complaints or staff discipline issues
    • Is able to speak up when concerned about non-compliance where it has not been picked-up by the board or where they feel it is not being taken seriously
    • Is able to explain the board’s legal responsibilities and accountabilities
    • Is able to identify when specialist advice may be required

6. Evaluation

  • Managing self-review and development
    • Recognises their own strengths and areas for development and seeks support and training to improve knowledge and skills where necessary
    • Is outward facing and focused on learning from others to improve practice
    • Maintains a personal development plan to improve his/her effectiveness and links this to the strategic aims of the organisation
    • Is open to taking-up opportunities, when appropriate, to attend training and any other opportunities to develop knowledge, skills and behaviours
    • Obtains feedback from a diverse range of colleagues and stakeholders to inform their own development
    • Undertakes self-review, reflecting on their personal contributions to the board, demonstrating and developing their commitment to improvement, identifying areas for development and building on existing knowledge and skills
  • Managing and developing the board’s effectiveness
    • Evaluates the impact of the board’s decisions on pupil/student outcomes
    • Utilises inspection feedback fully to inform decisions about board development
    • Contributes to self-evaluation processes to identify strengths and areas for board development

Heads’ reports to GBs; good relationships matter

Trigger warning: This blog has been written because I felt the need to “rant”!

While browsing Twitter this morning I read a few tweets discussing  a TES article. As this was on governance I naturally clicked the link to read it. I wish I hadn’t!

The article discusses how heads can “get the best” out of their governors. The second suggestion is a good one. Governors will, I think, appreciate hearing from the staff. They will appreciate being given an opportunity to interact with staff and to ask them questions directly. Staff, too, may appreciate being given the chance to talk about what they do. This will also bring governors and staff closer to each other with each understanding what the other does.

So what, I hear you ask, is my problem with the article? Well, the problem is the first suggestion. The suggestion is that heads should include a deliberate mistake in their reports to governors “just to check they’ve been reading it“. It is this suggestion that I find unhelpful and even patronising. Let me state right at the beginning that there are governors who turn up at meetings unprepared and not having read the papers beforehand.

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This article, however, does not distinguish between those who come prepared and those who don’t. It makes a blanket generalisation which isn’t helpful. The article also states,”We try to get everything out in writing to governors with at least a week or a long weekend to read and digest the contents before the actual meeting.” There is no acknowledgement that “trying” to get the papers out on time is the problem. Legislation does not say that the school should “try” and send out papers in advance. Legislation actually requires that papers be sent out at least seven days in advance of the meeting. I find the “long weekend to read” comment funny too. Are governors not entitled to a work/life balance? Why should governors be expected to spend their weekend, long or otherwise, reading papers they should have had in advance? I’ve heard some people say that heads are busy so governors should not complain if papers are late. I’m sorry but that doesn’t wash! It’s part of the head’s job to supply the information requested by the governors and supply it at least seven days in advance of the meeting.

If a head feels that certain governors are attending meetings unprepared then I think the way to handle this is to have a quiet word with the Chair. The Chair, I hope, would have picked up this him/herself too and can deal with it in an appropriate manner. But peppering your report with  deliberate mistakes in order to try and “catch them out” will not help matters and may ruin any trust that exists between the head and the governing body. What about those governors who have read the report and then question the deliberate mistake? How would they feel when the head replies, “Ah! That’s a deliberate mistake I put in there to see if you’d spot it. Well done for reading the paper.” Secondly, just because someone spots a typo doesn’t mean they will also ask strategic question. This isn’t the way to help governors think and ask strategic questions. Thirdly, what if they do spot it but say nothing because they want to spare your blushes thinkng you’ve made a silly mistake? Or what happens if governors spot the mistakes and send the report back with red marks all over it, asking it to be re-done? That’s the governors’ and the head’s time wasted!

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Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Something to think about: In which other industry/job will you find the employee trying to catch out his/her employer by adding a mistake in the report the employer has asked for? Also ask yourself what sanctions would the employee face if this were to happen!

I’ll end by making two comments. Firstly, I hope this was an attempt at humour and not an actual serious suggestion to fellow heads. Secondly, as there are “good” governors out there, there are also excellent heads who are a joy to work with, who enjoy and welcome the challenge and support from the governors and who think that the school is best served if the staff and governors work well together. One such head is Jarlath O’ Brien whose five ways for heads to turn governors into critical friends is well worth a read.

Rant over!

Five ways for heads to turn governors into a critical friend

This is an edited version of an article written by Jarlath O’Brien (headteacher of Carwarden House Community School in Surrey) published in the 9 October edition of TES. To read the full article, subscribe to TES. It is being posted here with their permission.

My first brush with school governors came fairly early in my teaching career. All new staff were asked to meet the governors in the library at the end of the day. As I trooped in with my colleagues, I was accosted by a diminutive, regal-looking lady.

“Ah, good evening. You must be the head boy,” she purred.

“No. I’m the [28-year-old] head of physics,” I replied.

That was it for me and governors for about six years.

I only really got to know the ins and outs of governance when I was a deputy headteacher at a large special school. Later, as a head, I began to grasp the delicate nuances of the relationship. Finally, after four years of headship, I realised the truth of the matter: you end up with the governing body you deserve.

What do I mean by this? Well, as a headteacher, you have the power to turn your governors into the strategic driving force they should be – or into an irritant to be avoided and reluctantly tolerated. Governors may start off in either camp (and anywhere in between), but where they end up during your headship is entirely down to you.

In the 9 October issue of TES, I detail seven ways to make sure you and your governors are at the positive end of the spectrum.

  1. Work on your relationship with the chair
    This trumps everything else. This relationship has equal importance, in my view, to the ones you have with your deputy and your school business manager. You’re not there to be best friends, but you do need to be professionally aligned. I tell my chair of governors everything and really value their perspective on things. When other heads say “I just tell my chair what to do” or “I ignore my chair”, I know a big opportunity has gone begging and a brake has been applied to progress.
  2. Respect your governors
    Get reports and papers to them on time so they can read them. It’s the least you can do. I used to complain about meetings on a Tuesday evening, preferring them later in the week. It never occurred to me that it might be the only night my governors were free – juggling, as they were, the rest of their busy lives.
  3. Help governors to feel less isolated
    The role of school governor can be a lonely one. They rarely have the luxury we have of visiting other schools regularly and building a professional network (although Twitter has been brilliant for governors). I’ve been able to help that along a little by organising meetings with other governing bodies to discuss key issues, although I hope to do more.
  4. Spread the love
    If yours is the only voice the governors hear at meetings, something needs to change. As a matter of course, I do not attend all committee meetings – our exceptional deputy head does a superb job in my place. Were I to attend alongside her, I’d find it hard to shut up; she would have less room to develop and the governors wouldn’t get to hear from other leaders. Make opportunities for other senior leaders and middle leaders to attend meetings, to discuss their areas of accountability and to be questioned by governors.
  5. Make your headteacher reports count
    These reports are for the governors’ use and the format and contents should be set by the board. The governors dictate what information they want to see – it’s your job to present this in as accessible a format as possible.